|Thursday, 15 April 2021|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 08-06-25
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Wednesday, 25 June 2008 Issue No: 2927
 FM Bakoyannis, Condoleezza Rice hold talks in BerlinBERLIN (ANA-MPA/P. Stangos)
Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis held talks "in a very friendly atmosphere," as she said, with her U.S. counterpart Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday, focusing on the course of negotiations on the issue of the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), the issue of Cyprus, Greek-Turkish relations and the so-called "Visa Waiver," the exemption of Greek citizens from the process of entry visas to the United States.
The talks were held on the sidelines of an International Donors Conference on boosting law and order in the Palestinian territory that took place in Berlin.
Briefing Greek reporters after her meeting with Rice, Bakoyannis clarified that on the name issue there is no ground for resolving the problem by July 9 and that such an issue was not even raised by the American side.
The character of the discussion in this respect was an "informative" one, the minister also said in light of the arrival of special envoy Matthew Nimetz in Athens on Thursday and afterwards in FYROM.
"I expressed the hope that these negotiations will have an auspicious conclusion, also hoping that the side of FYROM will also abandon pre-election rhetoric and will enter the essence of the negotiations," Bakoyannis said.
Replying to a question on what was Rice's contribution during the discussion, the minister said that "Mrs. Rice is well aware of the issue of the name (of FYROM) and of the Cyprus issue, which we also discussed... She is well aware of the issues, she has involved herself a great deal and, as you know, she is an experienced minister who is also aware of the essence of the problems."
Bakoyannis, who has already departed for Athens, concluded by saying that "the discussion was sincere and, as you know, Greek-American relations are good and are based on strong foundations."
 Papoulias meets Chinese premier, congress chairmanBEIJING (ANA-MPA - N. Megadoukas)
Greek President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias continued the second day of his official visit to China on Tuesday by holding successive meetings with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and the Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress Wu Bangguo.
As in talks with China's President Hu Jintao on Monday, the need to further enhance cooperation and "strategic trust" between Greece and China was emphasized in talks between Papoulias and Chinese officials on Tuesday.
The two sides agreed on a need for greater exchanges in tourism and education-related issues and for greater cooperation at international forums on matters of mutual interest requiring international cooperation, such as dealing with climate change.
Deputy Foreign Minister Petros Doukas, who accompanied the Greek president on his trip, said the Greek side had encouraged the Chinese to view Greece as a potential base of operations, from where they could expanding their business and investment activities in the European Union, the Balkans and the Mediterranean.
He said that Chinese officials had also expressed a desire to translate the excellent political relations between the two countries into equally good ties on an economic level.
According to the minister, the Chinese side had agreed with Greece's position about the need to reduce Greece's large deficit in its trade transactions with China, while noting that this gap was significantly reduced by the revenues of Greek ship owners transporting Chinese imports.
Beijing also took a positive view of the agreement with Cosco for the Piraeus port container terminal and expressed interest in similar deals with other Greek ports if the Greek side were willing, Doukas said. At the same time, Chinese officials expressed misgivings over a tendency for Greek port workers to go on strike and noted that such problems did not arise in other places of the world where similar deals had been struck, such as in Boston.
Doukas reported that the Greek side had invited Beijing to set up a Chinese bank in Greece and that Chinese officials had expressed interest in imports of Greek agricultural products. The Greek side also stressed the need to lift certain bureaucratic obstacles.
Other issues discussed were potential Greek-Chinese cooperation in scientific research, particularly on issues relating to renewable energy sources, with Doukas announcing a seminar to be held in Athens on July 8 where Greek know-how and technology developed for dealing with the repercussions of climate change will be presented.
On Tuesday night local time, President Papoulias inaugurated an exhibition of paintings by Mina Papatheodorou-Valyraki entitled "Body and Mind", in the framework of the Cultural Year of Greece in China (September 2007-September 2008).
On Wednesday, Papoulias is scheduled to visit the Chinese city of Shanghai.
 Boosting Greece-China economic relations the main thrust of President's talks in ChinaBEIJING (ANA-MPA - N. Megadoukas)
Further enhancement of economic relations between Greece and China was the main thrust of talks on Tuesday, the second day of Greek President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias' state visit to China.
Papoulias began on Monday afternoon an official visit to China designed to strengthen bilateral relations in the financial and investment sectors, and a memorandum of bilateral cooperation was signed after a meeting between Papoulias and his host, Chinese President Hu Jintao.
The Greek President also attended the closing session of the Greek Chinese Business Forum at a central Beijing hotel on Tuesday.
According to Chinese media reports, Hu proposed to Papoulias a four-point plan for strengthening bilateral relations, founded on frequent contact between the leaders of the two countries and cooperation between their governments, as well as mutual understanding and agreement on matters of common interest.
President Hu proposed that emphasis be placed on collaborations among small and medium size enterprises of the two countries, and boosting commercial transactions and and bilatera economic cooperation, particularly in the sector of investments and in the shipbuilding industry.
Hu further called for increased cultural exchanges, and proposed that Greece take part, as the Country of Honor, in the Beijing International Book Fair (in September 2008), while he also invited Greece to maintain communication and cooperation with China on international issues such as climate change, environmental protection and sustainable development.
Greek deputy foreign minister Petros Doukas, who is accompanying Papoulias on his China trip. spoke along the same lines in his address to the Business Forum, at which he highlighted the Greek economy's progress and its growth rates, citing the economic reforms, and stressing the need to increase Chinese investments in Greece and widening the bilateral trade balance, and closing the gap which is at Greece's expense,
Doukas further noted that Papoulias' visit to China will contribute to the two countries getting to better know each other and further strengthen their already excellent reations.
He said the visit was also an affirmation of the impressive potential of those relations and of the bilateral cooperation in recent years, the landmark of which was Greek prime minister Costas Karamanlis' visit to Beijing in January 2006 and the signing of a joint declaration of a comprehensive strategic partnership between Greece and China.
Turning to the global economic crisis and skyrocketing prices of raw materials, fuels and foods, he said these were phenomena that were putting social cohesion to the test in all countries, as they particularly impacted the socially weaker strata.
Doukas noted the burning problems resulting from the petrol crisis, and the repercussions arising from climate change, and stressed the need for cooperation among everyone to face them.
The deputy minister further recalled that Greece has proposed, at international organizations, the design and materialization of a mass tree planting program of at least 50 billion trees by the year 2009.
Inviting more Chinese entrepreneurs to invest in Greece, Doukas outlined Greece's advantages as the only Balkan and SE Europe country that was a member of the EU, NATO and the EU's European Monetary Union (EMU), stressing that "we want you to feel Greece as your own country as regards closer cooperation with the EU", and consider it a country that can serve as the springboard for China's expansion to the wider region of Europe, the Eastern Mediterranean and North Africa.
He underlined that that Greece boasts a strong business presence in the Balkans, while it was also an energy hub, noting the oil and natural gas pipelines in which Greece was a partner, as well as the country's infrastructures and ports.
Doukas also highlighted the investment opportunities on the Athens Stock Exchange (ASE), adding that Athens encouraged Chinese investments in the Greek ports: "We are pleased with Cosco's designation as temporary preferred bidder for the management of the container terminal at the port of Piraeus, adding that significant prospects for Greek-Chinese cooperation were opening up in the fields of alternative forms of energy and high technology.
Earlier on Tuesday morning (Beijing time), Papoulias laid a wreath at the Monument to the People's Heroes in the Gate of Heavenly Peace (Tiananmen) Square, followed by a tour of the Olympic installations that will host the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Papoulias was the first foreign leader to be given a tour of the impressive installations, which are nearing completion.
Greek employment minister Fanny Palli-Petralia, who is also accompanying Papoulias, also addressed the Business Forum and recalled her cooperation with the Chinese side for the Athens 2004 Olympics, whose portfolio as minister of culture at the time also included the Athens Olympics, and the memorandum of cooperation she signed for the transport of the Olympic Flame to Beijing and for transfer of know-how.
"After the 2004 Games, we built an Olympics bridge, the first bridge between our two countries, which has become a very solid one," Petralia said.
She also recalled that, as minister of tourism in the past, she had agreed with Beijing for an increase in Chinese tourists to Greece, noting that although Greece and China, as countries, differed in size, they were nevertheless "sister countries".
Petralia further expressed certainty that the Beijing Olympiad would be unique, and would make a new beginning for China and afford it the opportunity to open up a window to the world that would enable it to show the soul of every Chinese citizen.
"We raised the standard very high and organised a dream Olympiad in 2004," Petralia said, and wished to the Chinese to outdo the Athens Olympics.
On Tuesday afternoon, President Papoulias is scheduled to meet separately with Chinese prime minister Wen Jiabao and chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC, China's unicameral legislative house, or parliament) Wu Bangguo, while in the evening he will inaugurate an exhibition of paintings by Mina Papatheodorou-Valyraki titled "Body and Mind", in the framework of the Cultural Year of Greece in China (September 2007-September 2008).
Papoulias is due to depart for Shanghai on Wednesday.
 Draft law envisions ban on sales of alcohol, tobacco to minorsAn inner cabinet meeting on Tuesday, chaired by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, focused on health ministry issues.
After the meeting, Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos stated that a draft law banning the sale of tobacco products and alcohol to minors and outlawing smoking in all public spaces, beginning in 2010, will soon be tabled in Parliament.
Avramopoulos also said that another issue under discussion was the establishment of an international transplant centre in Athens and Thessaloniki.
Upgrades to the National Organization for Medicines (EOF) and the National Blood Donation Center were also discussed, while a tender concerning a molecular blood testing centre is close to approval by the Audit Council, he said.
 PASOK spokesman on current issuesThe main opposition PASOK party's Political Council will be convening at 10 a.m. on Thursday and at 13:30 party leader George Papandreou will be giving an across-the-board press conference at the Zappeion Hall while specific reference will be made to the Socialist International's meeting in Athens next week. The press conference will also be attended by Socialist International Secretary General Luis Ayala.
Asked whether any initiative by Papandreou will be presented on the "renewal of the country's political system", PASOK's spokesman George Papaconstantinou said that "the president of PASOK has made specific proposals since 2004, while last week he had made statements from which his clear intention to forge ahead without making exceptions for anyone is deduced. There must be no doubt that this intention will also be reflected in specific initiatives."
Referring to the Siemens issue as well, the spokesman said that "the Siemens issue is being shaped on a daily basis with selective rumors and leaks. We have a parody of a process and the collapse of the prestige of justice," while calling on the government "to safeguard the prestige of the judicial process and the prestige of institutions, democracy and the political world" and adding that "it must accept now the Factfinding Committee that PASOK has requested repeatedly."
Referring, lastly, to the Poverty Fund, Papaconstantinou said "the government is exposed because since January when it had announced the Fund against Poverty until September, when it will supposedly be activated, it has done absolutely nothing" and added that "whatever money will be given by the Fund against Poverty is already being owed by the government and, unfortunately, the problem of high prices and of unaccountability in the market cannot be solved with aspirins, nor that of direct and indirect taxation."
 PASOK official hails ECHR ruling condemning Turkey for 2 Greek Cypriots' murderMain opposition PASOK party's rapporteur on foreign policy, Andreas Loverdos, on Tuesday hailed a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that found Turkey guilty in the brutal murders of two Greek Cypriots in 1996.
"The ruling by the European Court of Human Rights, which condemns Turkey for the murder of Tasos Isaak and Solomos Solomou in August 1996, constitutes a real blow for this country. At the same time it constitutes a kind of vindication for the families of our murdered Cypriot brothers as well as for Hellenism's struggle against the occupation of Cyprus' northern part," Loverdos, a former deputy foreign minister, said in a statement.
The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday found Turkey guilty of human rights violations in two cases Greek Cypriots had brought before the Court.
The Court unanimously ruled that Ankara is guilty of violating Article 2 (right to life) of the European Convention on Human Rights in respect of the killing of Anastasios (Tasos) Isaak and Solomos Solomou. The Court also ruled that Turkey is guilty of violating Article 2 in respect of the failure to conduct an effective investigation into the circumstances in which Isaak and Solomou were killed.
The two applications were filed to the Court by the families of Tasos Isaak and Solomos Solomou, both of whom were murdered by Turkish or Turkish Cypriots during demonstrations in 1996.
The 25-year-old Isaak was beaten to death on 11 August 1996 by a group of thugs arriving from the occupied areas while taking part in an anti-occupation demonstration at Dherynia, on the east of the island.
The killing took place in the UN-controlled buffer zone, which separates the northern Turkish occupied north from the free government controlled part of the island republic.
Solomos Solomou, then aged 26, was killed on 14 August 1996, after being shot three times by Turkish snipers while trying to climb a pole in order to remove a Turkish flag from its mast. The killing occurred after the funeral of his cousin, Tasos Isaak.
 Alavanos repeats call for Parliamentary probe into Siemens affairThe head of the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group Alekos Alavanos on Tuesday repeated a call for the immediate start of a Parliamentary inquiry into the Siemens bribery case, following the latest revelations pointing to the involvement of political figures and parties.
He said that such an inquiry should look at the entire Siemens file "and not just the dirty contracts that have been uncovered up until now."
The deal for handing over the management of Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE) to Deutsche Telekom was another issue that ought to be looked at, Alavanos added, pointing to a reply given by the European Commission to a question placed by a SYRIZA Euro-MP that the deal was contrary to Community laws.
 Australia's positions on FYROM, Cyprus remain unchangedMELBOURNE (ANA-MPA/S. Hatzimanolis)
Foreign Minister Stephen Smith assured the Hellenic Australian Council members on Tuesday that the Australian government's position on the FYROM name issue remains unchanged.
In the first meeting he had with members of the Greek-Australian organization since he took over the foreign minister's office, Smith stated that Australia will be identifying the state in question as FYROM, adding that his government supports the continuation of negotiations for a mutually acceptable solution.
He also told the Greek-Australian community delegation, which was accompanied by Labor Party (ALP) MP Steve Georganas, that his government's position on the Cyprus issue is unchanged as well.
The Australian government recognizes one legitimate government on the island, that of Cypriot Republic President Demetris Christofias, Smith said, adding that Australia supports with all its power the adoption of a fair and viable solution.
The appointment of former Foreign Minister Alexander Downer as the UN SecGen's special envoy for Cyprus has the full backing of the Australian government, he said, and pointed out that the name of his government's envoy for Cyprus replacing Jim Short will be announced soon, adding that he will be an experienced diplomat.
The Australian foreign minister further stated that his country fully supports the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece and promised that the reopening of the Theological School of Halki and respect of the religious rights of the Christians in Turkey are two issues that will be raised with the Turkish government.
 Thorny 'name issue' addressed at Brussels debate on western BalkansBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA / V. Demiris)
The foreign minister of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) on Tuesday again used a European venue to claim "abuse" by a specific EU member-state regarding the still unresolved FYROM "name issue", a clear reference to EU member Greece and the latter's unwavering insistence that the one-time Yugoslav republic first resolve the 17-year-old dispute before proceeding further down the path to possible accession.
FYROM FM Antonio Milososki made the statements at a roundtable event organized by the Brussels-based Friends of Europe think-tank, entitled "A Balkans Balance Sheet", which itself was part of the European Policy Summit series.
In more-or-less echoing similar statements out of Skopje in the wake of snap elections in the landlocked country earlier this month, Milososki stated that FYROM is willing to enter a new round of talks for a solution to the "name issue" with determination and using arguments aimed at "preserving its national name".
The high-ranking member of FYROM's ruling political party, VMRO-DPMNE, also warned that the 27-member bloc, which FYROM aspires to join, should not let its credibility be "hostage" to the "irresponsible behaviors" of politicians.
Responding to Milososki, Greek Euro-MP George Dimitrakopoulos, one of two debate coordinators, stressed that it is obvious that there are two different viewpoints on the FYROM "name issue". He also expressed a hope that Skopje will enter the imminent round of talks with a "constructive attitude", allowing for a long-sought solution to the difference separating the two neighboring countries.
Dimitrakopoulos stated that good-neighborly relations are an important element for the promotion of western Balkan countries' European prospects.
Responding to a question on how his government views the next steps in the imminent negotiations, Milososki referred to FYROM's commitment to continue the talks under the auspices of UN envoy Matthew Nimetz.
Among those participating in the debate were Olli Rehn, EU Commissioner for Enlargement and Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha.
This high-level European Policy Summit on the Balkans was co-organised by Friends of Europe, the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, the Si&Si Group, the Athens-based Constantinos Karamanlis Institute for Democracy, Gallup Europe and the OECD Investment Compact for South East Europe.
 Parliament to discuss Regulation changesChanges which will be made in Parliamentary Regulations will be presented to the Parliament plenum for discussion on Wednesday, following the processing of a relevant proposal tabled by the House's president by the relevant committee.
The amendments and changes that received a majority approval by the Parliamentary Regulation Committee (the Communist Party of Greece expressed reservations) anticipate, among other things, that two more vice presidents will be elected from the fourth and fifth Parliamentary group in strength (the Radical Left Coalition and the Popular Orthodox Rally), the absolute majority of the party having an absolute majority in the House will not be affected in the Parliamentary Committees, the Parliament's National Defense and Foreign Policy Committee will have the right to call for an audience Greek ambassadors to foreign countries and organizations, persons that are not members of Parliament will also be able to table their views through a teleconference (if their presence is not possible), heads of state, prime ministers and personalities of international prestige will have the possibility of addressing Parliament and the time provided in off-the-agenda discussions for addresses by the prime minister, Parliamentary group leaders and ministers will be decreased.
 Athens to donate 1 million euros for Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon(corrects year to 2007 in 4th paragraph)
VIENNA (ANA-MPA/D. Dimitrakoudis)
An international donors' conference for the reconstruction of the Nar El-Bared Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon concluded here on Monday, with Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis reiterating Greece's support for the refugees.
"We Greeks care for the Palestinians and we are proving this in practice," she told reporters, announcing at the same time that Greece's participation in the effort will amount to one million euros.
Bakoyannis said Athens would undertake the reconstruction of one part of the camp, while it would also be present in relief programmes regarding Palestinian refugee women and children.
According to the Greek foreign minister, the refugee camp was completely destroyed during the 2007 conflict in Lebanon. "The aim of the reconstruction is to have the camp built on completely new foundations and of higher quality, so as to offer dignified living conditions to the Palestinian refugees."
On Sunday evening, Bakoyannis participated in an official dinner hosted by her Austrian counterpart Ursula Plassnik, in which EU foreign ministers and foreign ministers of the Arab League also took part.
Delegations from more than 50 countries and international organisations along with Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, EU Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner and Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa took part in the conference.
 US consul in XanthiThe US general consul in Thessaloniki, Hoyt Bryan Yee, carried out a courtesy visit to the northeastern city of Xanthi on Tuesday and met with local officials.
During his meeting with the Prefect, George Pavlidis, the US diplomat commented on a report appearing in an Athens Sunday weekly, which claimed that the former is working to create "minorities and the Kosovoisation of northern Greece", while citing various meetings he has had in the past with self-styled minority elements.
Yee categorically dismissed the report and underlined that in the overall framework of his contacts in Greece he carries out various meetings as part of efforts to become better acquainted with northern Greece, its residents and the problems they may facing.
Referring to the newspaper report, the prefect of Xanthi said "our region is absolutely secure and it has an optimistic and secure future. The report in question lies outside reality and it is unworthy of discussion."
 Turkish envoy to visit ThraceTurkish ambassador to Greece Oguz Gelikkol begins a three-day visit to Thrace, northeastern Greece, on Wednesday.
On Wednesday, the Turkish envoy will be meeting with Rhodopi prefectural authorities and in the afternoon with Muslim minority representatives.
On Thursday, Gellikkol will meet local authorities and representatives of the Muslim minority in the city of Xanthi and on Friday with Evros prefecture authorities.
 Europe's economic slowdown to continue until H1 2009, Greek FinMin saysA slowdown of the European economy will continue at least until the first half of 2009, when the first signs of a recovery will be seen, Greek Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis told Parliament on Tuesday.
Addressing the Parliament's Economic and European Affairs Commissions, during a briefing over the results of recent Eurogroup and ECOFIN meetings in Brussels, Alogoskoufis said the slowdown in European economy was affecting the Greek economy, with slower growth rates (between 3.3 pct and 3.4 pct), although he stressed that the situation would have been much harder if the government had not introduced timely its reforms on taxation and investments.
The Greek minister announced a new legislative initiative, this summer, aimed at rationalizing public spending, while commenting on surging prices across Europe said he presented a Greek government proposal to intensify efforts towards stronger competition and more efficient market operations.
 Eurobarometer on economyBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V. Demiris)
Unemployment, the financial situation and the high cost of living are among the main issues preoccupying both the Greeks and the rest of the Europeans, according to the results of a Eurobarometer poll publicised here on Tuesday.
Replying to the question of what are the main issues that the country is currently facing, the Greeks said unemployment by 40 percent, the financial situation also 40 percent and the high cost of living 33 percent.
The Greeks are also concerned about pensions by 21 percent, crime 14 and health 13. As regards their expectations over the next 12 months, 40 percent of Greeks said their lives would remain the same, 39 that it will improve and 21 that it will worsen.
Lastly, 67 percent of the Greeks, the highest percentage among the "27", believe that globalization constitutes a threat for employment and businesses in Greece.
 Ministers' decision requires banks to abide by court rulingsDevelopment Minister Christos Folias and Deputy Development Minister George Vlachos on Tuesday signed a ministerial decree that forbids banks from imposing lending conditions on borrowers that have already been condemned in final court rulings concerning previous contracts of the same type.
The decree, signed after collaboration between the ministers and General Secretary for Consumers Yiannis Economou, specifically refers to seven final court rulings issued by the Greek Supreme Court, the Athens Appeals Court and the Athens First-instance court between 1998 and 2007 for three categories of bank products (variable-interest mortgages, providing credit cards and deposit account contracts) and 15 terms considered abusive.
Under the decree, commercial banks are forbidden from imposing penalties to mortgage lenders wishing to pre-pay their loans, while interest on floating rate mortgage loans will be calculated on a basis of a 365-day year. Also banks are not allowed to impose extra fees on consumer loans, or unilaterally raise interest on credit cards.
Commenting on the decree, Folias said commercial banks will have to adopt these decisions in their transactions with consumers while he added if financial institutions failed to follow new decisions strict sanctions will be imposed. The Greek minister said that interest on credit cards issued by Greek financial institutions were much higher compared with lending interest rates, other interest on credit cards in the European Union and consumer and mortgage loans offered in the country. He urged commercial banks to cut their interest on credit cards.
 Tourism minister on eco tourism in GreeceTourism Development Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos underlined from Thessaloniki on Tuesday that "green tourism" is something that the east Mediterranean country should better promote, as strong competition in this "niche sector" is lacking.
Although Greece's record in environmental protection has been a controversial topic in recent years, Spiliotopoulos nevertheless stressed that "more and more Europeans look for an ecological dimension for their vacations, leading the tourist industry before a crucial choice: how to be profit-making by exploiting the environment without damaging it.
Citing an ad slogan of "Think Green, Think Greece", he called on the domestic tourist industry to show the world that Greece has an environmentally friendly side.
A model programme for green tourism in the country provides for the establishment of eco-friendly camping sites and marinas as well as innovative actions such as environmental trekking routes, pavilions and observatories. Along these lines, and while speaking in Thessaloniki, he said camping sites in Skotina, Asprovalta and Fanari, all in northern Greece, will turn be transformed into "eco" sites, along with a new marina in Paliouri, Halkidiki.
He also referred to rehabilitation of several regions of southern Greece devastated during last summer's wildfires, namely, Lake Kaiafa, as well as renovation of the noted ski resort of Mt. Parnassus.
 Wine tourism presentation in agrotourism exhibitionThe Dionysus Wine Route members of the "Wine Roads of Northern Greece" agrotourism network will present their own proposal at the Argotourism businesses exhibition in Xanthi, northeastern Greece, on June 27-29.
A wide range of agrotourism businesses will present visitors with tourism options combining wine tourism and other aspects of eastern Macedonia and Thrace's cultural heritage and environment.
 Greek current accounts deficit up 5.7 percent in Jan-AprilA jump in international oil prices led to a widening of the country's current accounts deficit in the first four months of the year, the Bank of Greece said on Tuesday. The central bank, in a monthly report, said payments on fuel imports rose 46.6 percent, while the trade deficit widened by 16.5 percent and the current accounts deficit rose by 5.7 percent in the January-April period.
The current accounts deficit rose by 692 million euros, compared with the same period last year, to 12.85 billion euros, while the widening of the trade deficit by 2.0 billion euros reflected mainly an 1.2 billion euros increase in net payments on fuel imports. Excluding ships and fuel, the value of Greek exports rose by 419 million euros or 11 pct, while the value of imports rose by 960 million euros, or 7.8 percent in the January-April period.
The services' surplus rose by 366 million euros, reflecting a 22.6 pct rise in shipping net revenues, while gross revenues from tourism rose 3.2 pct, while the current transfers' surplus grew by 1.4 billion euros.
The financial services balance showed that foreign direct investments recorded a net outflow of 813 million euros in the four-month period, while portfolio investments recorded a net inflow of 3.8 billion euros.
 Invest in Greece Organisation promotion in NorwayRepresentatives of major Norwegian companies, mainly from the energy sector, participated in an event organised by the Invest in Greece Organisation in Oslo this week, during a business visit to Norway in the framework of promoting investments to Greece.
The Invest in Greece Organisation presented the country's dynamism because of its strategic geographical position in SE Europe and the eastern Mediterranean, as well as Greece-based enterprises' dynamism in the wider region, the country's skilled workforce and a business environment marked by reforms. The organization also presented a new investment law and incentives offered to foreign investors.
Als Tangvald, an executive of YARA International, which operates in Greece in the last 10 years, certified his company's very positive results in Greece and highlighted an exceptional cooperation with Greek customers and suppliers.
Dimitris Pazaitis, the chief executive of the Organisation, said synergies with Greek embassies abroad multiplied the efficiency of the organisation's actions.
Greece's ambassador to Norway, Iakovos Spetsios, in addressing the event, referred to the excellent relations between the two countries.
 Ministerial decision on public-sector energy use signedA joint ministerial decision outlining planned measures for improving energy efficiency and conservation in the broader public sector was signed on Tuesday by Development Minister Christos Folias, Interior, Public Administration and Decentralization Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos and Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis.
The agreement is the first step toward ultimately creating a energy-efficient and environmentally friendly system for public sector activities that will act as a forerunner for the kind of measures that must be taken throughout the country in these areas.
As well as updating the existing regulatory framework and establishing a uniform approach to the issue of energy conservation in public buildings and in other areas, the joint decision additionally includes instructions and outlines operational parameters, specifications and environmental conditions that must be met by all public buildings and public sector procurements.
Among these is the mandatory link-up with the natural gas network where this is possible, reducing power consumption, regular maintenance of air-condition systems and replacing conventional light bulbs with low-energy bulbs, among others, while it also suggests additional measures like the use of overhead fans for natural cooling, shading buildings and external air-conditioning units to reduce cooling costs, green roofs etc.
The measures for public procurements require that these henceforth comply with Community regulations in their technical specifications and energy requirements by a specific deadline. After the agreement comes into force, procurements not meeting these requirements will not be consider public spending and will not be accepted by agencies controlling public finances.
 Greek shipping sector revenues up by 8% in 2008, reportThe Greek-owned shipping sector is strengthening its international competitive position, a report by National Bank of Greece, focusing on the outlook of global shipping, revealed on Tuesday.
The report said Greek shipowners enhanced their leading position in the ocean-going shipping market by adopting an impressive investment programme worth more than 90 billion euros, which peaked over the last two years, by promoting a significant quality and quantity upgrading of the Greek-owned fleet. Under the programme, the average age of the Greek fleet fell below the international average of 14.6 years to 14 years, for the first time in the last seven years.
Greek shipowners are also appearing to adapt well to changes in the international business environment by significantly changing the structure of their orders, focusing more on dry cargo vessels and containers and gradually reducing their orders in tankers (their share fell to 36 pct of the Greek-owned fleet in 2007 from 39 pct in 1997).
The development and renewal of the Greek-owned fleet is expected to continue over the next few years, since the inventory of new ship orders in the last two years amounted to 66 million DWT, or 32 pct of total capacity of the Greek-owned fleet, namely, some 17.5 pct of global orders. The capacity of the Greek fleet is expected to grow by 28 percent by the end of 2010, with average age falling below 11 years by 2011.
Net shipping revenues totalled 17 billion euros in 2007, or 7.0 pct of the country's Gross Domestic Product, covering 28 pct of the trade deficit, while the sector contributed around 4 pct of total employment in the period 2006-2007.
National Bank's analysts said they expected the shipping sector's revenues to grow by 8.0 pct this year, to fall by an annual average rate of 4.0 pct in 2009-2010 and to grow by 6.0 pct in the period 2011-2014.
 Sunlight Systems announces 50-mln-euro investment in ThraceSunlight Systems on Tuesday announced an investment project, worth 50 million euros, in Thrace with the creation of 150 new job positions in the area. Christos Kartalis, the company's chairman of the board, said the new investment will further boost local economy by raising the number of the factory's workforce to 650 from 500 currently. The investment aims to increase the production of industrial batteries three-fold and to create a battery recycling unit in the region. Sunlight Systems expects turnover to rise by 45 percent to 154 million euros this year, of which 80 percent are from exports.
 National Bank seeks to maintain leading position in SEENational Bank's main goal is to maintain its leading position in the wider region of Southeastern Europe and to offer integrated banking services both to consumers and enterprises in the region, Yiannis Pehlivanides, the bank's deputy chief executive told a conference on "Southeast Europe Banking Conference 2008", organized by Money Conferences.
Presenting the bank's strategy, Pehlivanides underlined the importance of skilled knowledge and the understanding of particularities of markets in the region, which he described as precious basis for a successful course of National Bank's strategy. He noted that the Group has established its presence in eight countries with a market of 125 million people.
Pehlivanides underlined the significance of acquiring Finansbank in Turkey and Vojvodjanska bank in Serbia and said National Bank ranks fifth in the list of private banks in Turkey. National Bank operates a network of more than 1,700 branches with 34,000 workers in the region.
 Builders to hold nationwide strike on WednesdayBuilders, construction workers and those supplying construction materials have announced a 24-hour nationwide strike on Wednesday, in order to press for more jobs, higher wages and high incidence of uninsured labour, which currently accounts for an estimated 30-40 percent of all construction-sector jobs if economic migrants are taken into account.
Construction workers in northern Greece are also planning a rally outside the Thessaloniki Labor Centre at 10:30 on Wednesday morning.
In Thessaloniki, particularly, unemployment among certain kinds of construction jobs is running as high as 50 percent and the situation is expected to become even more difficult in 2009 since unsold newbuilt homes and apartments in the city number some 30,000.
Other demands presented by the sector are an increase in the minimum wage to 70 euros per day, an increase in unemployment benefits to 1,120 euros a month and greater safety at building sites, which accounted for more than half of all work-related deaths in 2007.
 Greek stocks fell for 12th consecutive sessionGreek stocks lost further substantial ground on Tuesday, extending their losing streak for the 12th successive session in the Athens Stock Exchange. The composite index fell below the 3,500 level to end at 3,482.01 points, off 1.22 percent. Turnover was a strong 411.7 million euros, of which 24.3 million euros were block trades.
Most sectors moved lower with the Personal/Home products (3.48 pct), Travel (2.81 pct) and Commerce 2.57 pct) suffering the heaviest percentage losses of the day, while Insurance (2.72 pct), Utilities (1.52 pct0 and Oil (0.85 pct) scored gains.
The FTSE 20 index fell 0.98 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 1.88 pct lower and the FTSE 80 index eased 0.57 pct. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 185 to 62 with another 38 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +0.85%
Personal & Household: -3.48%
Raw Materials: -0.49%
Travel & Leisure: -2.81%
Food & Beverages: -1.25%
Financial Services: -1.10%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, MIG, OPAP and OTE.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 18.92
Public Power Corp (PPC): 20.22
HBC Coca Cola: 18.80
Hellenic Petroleum: 9.80
National Bank of Greece: 28.00
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 15.84
Piraeus Bank: 17.12
Titan Cement Company: 25.44
 ADEX closing reportGreek futures contract prices were mixed in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday, with turnover rising slightly to 177.796 million euros. The September contract on the FTSE 20 was traded at its fair price, while the July contract on the FTSE 40 index at a premium of 0.49 percent.
Volume in futures contracts on the Big Cap index totaled 16,767 contracts worth 154.189 million euros, with 32,973 open positions in the market, while on the Mid Cap index volume was 20 contracts worth 438,220 euros, with 144 open positions.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 19,250 contracts worth 21.238 million euros, with investment interest focusing on MIG's contracts (4,085), followed by OTE (2,466), OPAP (873), National Bank (1,527), Marfin Popular Bank (1,834), Cyprus Bank (1,145) and ATEbank (764).
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market totaled 1.212 billion euros on Tuesday, of which 530 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 682 million were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2018) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 765 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds eased to 0.65 percent, with the Greek bond yielding 5.25 percent and the German Bund 4.60 percent.
In money markets, interest rates moved higher. The 12-month Euribor rate rose to 5.42 pct form 5.41 pct on Monday, the six-month rate was 5.12 pct, the three-month rate 4.96 pct and the one-month rate 4.49 pct.
 Foreign Exchange Rates - WednesdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.569
Pound sterling 0.797
Danish kroner 7.518
Swedish kroner 9.477
Japanese yen 169.34
Swiss franc 1.631
Norwegian kroner 8.038
Canadian dollar 1.595
Australian dollar 1.645
 European Commission organises conference on Post Office ServicesTransport and Communications Minister Kostis Hadzidakis was the main speaker at a conference organized in Brussels by the European Commission on Post Office Services, in light of the opening of the post office market, referring to problems that will stem from the deregulation of the Post Office Market.
The minister focused on three main points: the need for those providing post office services to adjust to a dynamically developing environment, the obligation of countries to safeguard the supply of high quality services and the role played by the national regulating authorities that must protect consumer rights.
As regards Greece, Hadzidakis said that the deregulation of the post office market in 2013 will give the Greek market the possibility of adjusting itself better to the new developments that are being shaped in the framework of the new post office directive.
 Lycabettus theatre to reopenThe city of Athens municipal authority on Tuesday announced that the Lycabettus Theatre would reopen after a controversial last-minute shut down that forced Athens Festival organizers to cancel two performances by James Blunt literally hours before they were due to start.
After convening on Monday, the City of Athens Municipal Committee said it had decided to reopen the theatre and hold a discussion on the matter at the Athens City Council on Wednesday, based on the latest round of correspondence with the Tourism Development Company (ETA), which is the theatre's proprietor and manager.
A municipality press release said that a letter and attached evaluation reports from ETA dated June 21 confirmed that the original letter sent on June 5 that called for the immediate suspension of the Lycabettus Theatre's operation on safety grounds was "based on false assumptions" and blamed the Athens Festival organization for the mix-up.
According to local media, the technical reports that declared the theatre safe and able to operate had somehow been "misplaced" by both authorities, as well as letters from ETA asking that the original request for the theatre's closure be ignored.
The municipality had been intensely criticised after its decision to close the theatre down on June 18, just three hours before the scheduled Blunt concert was due to begin.
In a press release issued at the time, it had cited the original letter sent by ETA to Athens Festival, the municipality and the Greek National Tourism Organization stating that the theatre was in need of immediate repairs to ensure that it was safe.
It admitted, however, that the claim was then revoked by ETA in a letter dated June 17, a day before the Blunt concert, and that Athens Festival SA had asked the City of Athens to revoke a decision to seal off the theatre in a letter on June 18, saying it would claim full responsibility for its operation.
This was followed by a third letter from ETA, dated June 18, in which it said that, based on technical reports, reinforcement works had been carried out on the theatre's bleachers and "there was no risk....which necessitated the closure of the theatre".
In the meantime, however, the municipality had already issued an order to suspend the operation of the Lycabettus Theatre and seal it off on safety grounds. Athens Festival SA contested the decision in the Athens first-instance court but the request was rejected by the court on the grounds that it was not qualified to decide.
Justifying the decision to go ahead with the closure on Friday, Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis claimed that the municipality had "nothing to do with the Athens Festival nor the Lycabettus Theatre" and that the municipal police were merely executing the orders they were given by the courts and other competent bodies.
"The order for the inspection of the theatre was issued by the Greek National Tourism Organisation. The original report was never withdrawn, apparently because the engineers who signed it refused to do so. The order for the closure was issued 14 days ago by ETA and the Greek justice system confirmed the City of Athens decision for the theatre's immediate closure," Kaklamanis had said in a reply to criticism from the Athens Festival organisers, adding that the municipality was not in a position to take chances with people's safety because tickets had been sold.
 KEDKE conference on administrative reformThe new draft law on administrative reform will be ready by the end of the current year while the 2010 municipal elections will be held in the new stronger municipalities that will result from the willful mergers of smaller ones, Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos announced on Tuesday.
Opening the two-day conference of the Central Union of Municipalities and Communities (KEDKE) on the "Challenge of a new reform in first degree Local Government" in Athens, Pavlopoulos stated that administrative reforms are successful and have a duration when they are based on consensus and requested from KEDKE and the Local Unions of Municipalities and Communities (TEDK) to submit their proposals. The goal is to create fewer and stronger municipalities, Pavlopoulos underlined.
On the crucial issue of the Region Secretary General office, Pavlopoulos stated that it is in the discretion of the elected officials to decide whether election to the post will result from a direct or indirect process stressing, however, that the region secretary general will chair the Regional Council.
The minister clarified that there is no issue of Metropolitan Municipalities stating that cooperation between neighboring municipalities will be launched through a pilot programme initially to be implemented in Athens, Thessaloniki and Piraeus. Inter-Municipal cooperation will focus on issues concerning environmental protection, waste management, cultural events and social structures.
Pavlopoulos also stated that a collective body will also be established headed by the mayor of the largest municipality.
 Parliament President Sioufas inaugurates exhibitionParliament President Dimitris Sioufas inaugurated an exhibition titled "Deputies and Eurodeputies write: 1974-2008" at the Parliament Building's Eleftherios Venizelos Hall on Tuesday evening, in the presence of former president of the republic Constantine Stephanopoulos, former prime minister Tzannis Tzannetakis, Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party leader George Karatzaferis, ministers and deputies.
The exhibition displays the literary work of Greek deputies and Eurodeputies of the post-junta era (beginning from 1974). For the first time 2,500 titles were collected and classified, whose content highlights the literary activity and interests of the 420 members of the Greek Parliament and the European Parliament who have written and published books.
 'Prespes 2008' events dedicated to Maria CallasCultural events titled "Prespes 2008" will be dedicated to singer Maria Callas this year, while the exhibition on the Greek soprano will be inaugurated by President Karolos Papoulias, accompanied by Parliament President Dimitris Sioufas and Culture Minister Mihalis Liapis.
A press conference was held at the culture ministry on Tuesday on the artistic programme for the month of August in the presence of the culture minister, main opposition PASOK party Deputy and inspirer of the institution George Lianis and local officials of the prefecture of Florina. Also present were many of the artists who will be participating in the Prespia, which will be celebrating their 20th anniversary this year.
 'Boats and Seas' painting exhibition to open next week in KalamariaA painting exhibition titled "Boats and Seas" opens on July 3 in the Thessaloniki seaside town of Kalamaria, at Aretsous beach.
The exhibition, being staged in the framework of "Naval Week 2008", and running through July 15, is organised by the prefecture of Thessaloniki, the municipality of Kalamaria and the Black Sea International Studies Center.
Participating artists include Costas Loustas, Nikos Zarras, Christina Kelesidou, Tamara Kessidou, Fotini Bouzenidou, Vassilis Moutafidis, Ilona Tsomakou and Irini Filippidou.
 Photo-journalists announce work stoppageThe Photojournalists' Union of Greece (EFE) has called a work stoppage on Wednesday from noon to 3 p.m. to protest what the group calls refusal by the relevant sports undersecretariat's general secretary to sign professional ID cards of the union members. A rally will be held at noon on Wednesday outside the General Secretariat of Sports offices in Athens.
 Turkey guilty of human rights violations, says European CourtNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
The European Court of Human Rights has found Turkey guilty of human rights violations in two cases Greek Cypriots had brought before the Court.
The Court unanimously ruled that Ankara is guilty of violating Article 2 (right to life) of the European Convention on Human Rights in respect of the killing of Anastasios Isaak and Solomos Solomou.
The Court also ruled that Turkey is guilty of violating Article 2 in respect of the failure to conduct an effective investigation into the circumstances in which Anastasios Isaak and Solomos Solomou were killed.
Under Article 41 (just satisfaction) of the Convention, the Court awarded 80,000 euro to Anastasios Isaak's widow for pecuniary damage.
In respect of non-pecuniary damage, the Court awarded 35,000 euro each to Anastasios Isaak's widow, his parents, and to Solomos Solomou's father, and also 15,000 euro to each of Anastasios Isaak's and Solomos Solomou's siblings. The applicants in both cases were also awarded 12,000 for costs and expenses.
The two applications were filed to the Court by the families of Tasos Isaak and Solomos Solomou, both of whom were murdered by Turkish or Turkish Cypriots during demonstrations in 1996.
The 25-year-old Tasos Isaak was beaten to death on 11 August 1996 by a Turkish mob, while taking part in an anti-occupation demonstration at Dherynia, on the east of the island. The killing took place in the UN-controlled buffer zone, which separates the northern Turkish occupied north from the southern government controlled part of the country.
Solomos Solomou, then aged 26, was killed on 14 August 1996, after being shot three times by Turkish snipers, while trying to climb a pole in order to remove a Turkish flag from its mast. The killing happened after the funeral of his cousin Tassos Isaak.
The appeals to ECHR against Turkey were based on Articles 2 (right to life), 8 (right to respect for private and family life) and 14 (prohibition of discrimination), whilst in the case of Solomou was also based on Articles 1 (obligation to respect human rights) and 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment).
Turkey has continued to occupy 37 per cent of the north of the island of Cyprus following its illegal invasion of 1974, and has defied countless UN resolutions to withdraw its troops from the island.
In another ruling, the European Court of Human Rights found Turkey also guilty of human rights violations in the case of Eleni Foka, a Greek Cypriot teacher who served for years in the Turkish occupied areas of Cyprus.
The Court unanimously ruled that Ankara is guilty of violating Article 10 (freedom of expression), of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The applicant, Eleni Foka, is a Cypriot national who was born in 1947 and lives in Nicosia. She is a retired schoolteacher. At the relevant time, she lived and worked in the village Ayia Triada in the Karpass region of occupied Cyprus.
According to a press release, issued Tuesday by the Registrar, "the case concerned Foka's allegation that, on her way back to Ayia Triada in January 1995 from southern Cyprus where she had spent the Christmas holidays with her family, she was arrested and ill-treated by Turkish-Cypriot customs officers at the Ledra Palace checkpoint."
She also alleged that "her bag was searched and its contents (notably cassettes, books, a diary and a map) were confiscated and that she was persecuted because of her ethnic origin, religious beliefs and her opposition to the Turkish military occupation of the northern part of Cyprus".
Foka relied on Articles 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment), 5 (right to liberty and security), 10 (freedom of expression), 8 (right to respect for private and family life), 9 (freedom of thought, conscience and religion) and 14 (prohibition of discrimination).
The Court held unanimously that there had been no violations of Articles 3 or 5, and that there had been a violation of Article 10.
The Court further held unanimously that it was not necessary to examine whether there had been a violation of Articles 8, 9 and 14.
Foka was awarded 300 Euro in respect of pecuniary damage and 5,000 Euro for costs and expenses.
 President Christofias satisfied with ECHR decisionNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias on Tuesday expressed his contentment at the European Court of Human Rights' ruling regarding the violation of human rights in Cyprus by Turkey.
"It is fortunate that the continuous violation of human rights in Cyprus is condemned by the European Court of Human Rights", President Christofias said.
Invited to comment on the Court's decisions to find Turkey guilty in respect of the killing of Anastasios Isaak and Solomos Solomou in 1996, and guilty of human rights violations in the case of Eleni Foka, President Christofias noted: "These are good news. However, I would like to stress once again that the violation of human rights in Cyprus due to the Turkish occupation remains; thus, we should intensify our struggle and our efforts to put an end to occupation".
President Christofias pointed out that the efforts to restore human rights of all Cypriots, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, should also be intensified. "I believe that the Turkish occupation violates the human rights of both, Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot", he added.
Regarding the decision the left-wing and main ruling AKEL party to vote against the Treaty of Lisbon, and invited to comment on other political parties' reaction to it's decision, President Christofias stressed that he fulfils his pre-election commitments. "What I promised to the people of Cyprus at the pre-election period, I put it in practice", he said.
Christofias is AKEL's General Secretary.
"I have met all the European leaders, and I have explained the situation in Cyprus and all accepted it and expressed their satisfaction", President Christofias added and assured that Cyprus is not facing any problems within the European Union.
President Christofias also pointed out that the elected government of Cyprus is the country's representative to the European Union.
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